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Fasting 101 – Part 9 – Breaking a Short Fast


The word breakfast literally means ‘break fast’ – to break your fast. When you wake in the morning, your body may be conditioned to break the fast almost immediately or within hours. If you are like me and break your fast later, then you won’t have this feeling as you wake.

Consuming calories after you wake is typically breaking a short fast, but for ease of reference and understanding, let’s define a short fast as a fast that will be broken within a 16-18 hour window. A longer fast will not follow the protocol in this article.

The science behind it

When you fast, your cells open to release nutrients and electrolytes into the bloodstream to keep your levels balanced as best as possible. When fasting, if you have not taken in electrolytes and nutrients, you have more in the bloodstream than you have in your cells. The cells will want to replenish this. When you eat, the cells pull in the nutrients and electrolytes through the membrane. When you eat carbs, they pull in even more which can lead to a damaged cell membrane.

When breaking your fast, keep the meal as clean as possible. If you take garbage in, your cells will do the same.  This is just an overview of what happens. Research further to understand this process deeper.

Leave out the fat

DON’T MIX FATS AND CARBS WHEN BREAKING YOUR FAST! When you eat carbs, you spike your insulin. Spiking your insulins opens your cells. Opening the cells causes the cell to suck in whatever is around. Eating fat means fat will be stored with the electrolytes and all that will rush into the cells, hence some fat will be stored in the cell as well and this is not what you want.  Further, when you eat carbs and fat, your insulin is spiked EVEN MORE and you run a much higher risk of storing more fat. We don’t want that!

Break with a protein

When you fast, your gut biome is changed and food that is easier to digest will always be better. If possible, you can easily get your protein from a pea or hemp protein shake. You want to avoid whey and dairy as they can cause inflammation because, once again, they are harder to digest.  If yoghurt is the only option available, go for a 0% fat, organic, Greek yoghurt. The probiotics will help the gut, but a non-dairy option will be optimal. If you go with whey protein, use a whey isolate. This will render a greater amount of protein, but fewer carbs and fat because the lactose has been removed during the process. Also, because the lactose has been removed, the inflammation from the dairy will not be an issue.

As much as possible go with lean chicken, turkey, or fish (not fatty fish) because it will be easier to digest. Red meat will be hard on the digestive system and may have some fat that you want to avoid. Plus, protein does spike your insulin as well and you want to ensure that what goes into your cells is something clean and fat-free.

Carbs (for those who aren’t on a ketogenic diet)

Not all carbs are created equally. You may have heard that after a workout, you should eat a high glycemic carb to help your body absorb the glycogen that it has taken in so it can be absorbed. No? Well, maybe we will talk about that one day. But pretty much, when you take in carbs, it is converted to glycogen so it can be used. Some of this glycogen is stored in the muscles. The end of a fast is a great time to eat a high glycemic carb as it is also a good time to give your muscles what they need to ‘recover’ from the fast (similar to recovering from a workout).

Some examples of these carbs are rice cakes and puffed rice that are plain and with no added sugar. Rice is typically a horrible carb to break your fast with BUT rice cakes, puffed rice, and even a plain baked potato, the starches have been pre-separated and are easier to digest as your gut biome has changed on the fast. So remember that not all carbs are created equal and should be consumed when breaking your fast.

Have some fructose

When I hear the word fructose, I always think of fruit. It helps me remember that fructose is the sugar that comes from fruit and is not the same as sucrose and glucose. When having your fruit, you don’t need a lot. Just a small piece, maybe half a serving.

Avoid sodium

Remember when you break your fast, you have a small spike in insulin and the cells open to receive the nutrients that may have been depleted while on the fast. This includes sodium. When the cells open and you have sodium with your first meal, the sodium rushes into the cells which then causes bloating, discomfort, and water gain. It may be a good idea to sip on a little water and sodium during the fast but NEVER have sodium when breaking your fast as the cell will look for it with other nutrients and electrolytes it may have released during the fast. 

Think of this breaking of the fast as a snack before you eat. Have this snack 60-120 minutes before you eat your regular, healthy meal. This will ensure that your cells get what they need (and not what they don’t need), your insulin isn’t spiked too much (continuous spikes aren’t good), your muscles are cared for (and none are lost).

Always remember, I am not a doctor, nurse, or even qualified to give you advice. I’m just a person who has decided to take her health seriously. I research, read published articles, watch others who have taken their health by the horns. What I type is what I have tried and what works for me.  You can try it as well. See if it works for you, but don’t hold us accountable as we (the magazine and I) are not medical professionals.


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